A Method to Madness: My review

A Method to Madness: Judith White


Can the appearance of a rich client change your life? Sam Flanagan became a private detective after leaving the police force under difficult circumstances. The year is 1943 and the war has not ended and jobs are scarce and the economy poor. Just when he’s about to chuck it in for the day out of nowhere enters Phyllis Killburn, rich, smart and definitely deceptive in many ways hiring him to follow her philandering husband Edwin Kilburn. Phyllis is the daughter of tire-tycoon Alden Whitaker. With the help of an old newspaper named Harry he hopes to uncover information about his client and her husband. A news article from 1941 provides information about the wedding and several photos that accompany the article would help identify her husband and her father. But, in the wedding announcement she is listed as Phyllis Calvert why?

Staring at Edwin’s photo, assessing him just from his looks both Sam and Harry wonder what he saw in Phyllis and why not go for someone younger? Uncovered is her past marriage explaining the last name and more direct thinking this new husband was just out for her money. So, why did she purchase a gun after leaving Sam’s office? Why did Sam need one for protection?


Meeting the editor of the Chicago Tribune Harry introduces Sam as a reporter from Detroit enabling him to have access to information a press pass and more. Added in as they leave the Tribune they see his client with her bodyguard who just happens to be the same man that he met on the plane ride to Chicago. Just what was Phyllis ranting about and why was she there? Why would Edwin marry someone 20 years his senior? Enlightened by the editor of the Tribune about Edwin and many other facts he learns something about his past and Phyllis too. A father that dominated her life and would not allow her to live it her way or stay married to a man he disapproved of. Divorce was not difficult for her first husband as the payoff was better than the marriage. Enter Edwin for all appearances seems happy with Phyllis but just what is really behind her hiring Sam and this reviewer feels there is much more to her that has not been revealed. But, the plot becomes more intense as Sam decides to follow some leads and learn more about Edwin from several sources. Added in Phyllis summons him to her house to discuss Edwin and implies that he might be trying to eliminate her even though everyone else seems to think he is a great guy.


Author Judy White takes the reader back to Chicago when Capone ruled the streets, mobsters were commonly seen in bars and the war was still on the rise as Churchill and Roosevelt met for the first time when an American President flew overseas. Learning more about Henry Ford and his relationship with Phyllis’s father helps the reader know just what kind of a man Adrian Whitaker was and why his daughter might just be as ruthless. All evidence points to the fact that Edwin is definitely up to something and that he might have been involved with the military. Just what his secret is has not been revealed. With money as no object she hired Sam to dig deep into Edwin’s activities and hopefully with Harry Blevins and his ties to the tribune he might succeed. But, living with his grandmother is a challenge and she often forgets where she is and who Sam is when he calls her.


Enter into the mix Mary the cook and Brigitte the maid who Sam shares some tea with and learns more about an argument between Phyllis and her husband. Tailing him he finds him in the embrace of a young nurse seeming to comfort her. When questioning the owner of a diner that she and Edwin frequent he provides Sam with a first name and nothing more. As things heat up and the tension mounts and the frame of the puzzle starts to fill in some of the missing pieces but the final picture is not complete. A dinner party would change it all as Sam meets many of Phyllis’s friends, the discuss focuses on the war and Patton and then he breaks the news to her about the other woman named Corinne. But, what happens next you just won’t expect as Edwin is seated on the couch and when Brigitte screams what everyone sees will stun them. Someone or something killed Edwin but the reason too soon to tell as the guests react in different ways. From Dr. Harrell and his wife Enid whose expression is cold and unfeeling to the many of the guests who seem more concerned with having another spot of coffee or a drink, you begin to wonder whether anyone cares about the deceased except his wife, Mary and Brigitte. When the police arrive the questions begin but just what are the answers and why would anyone take out Edwin at a dinner party in the plain sight of many witnesses? But the author creates a twist you won’t see coming as the police divulge something about the murder that is not quite what you expect. A martini glass that Edwin drank from with the rim covered in lipstick and the liquid poisoned. Just whom did the glass really belong to and who was meant to die if not Edwin? But, Sam is smart and although he is now back home his thoughts are still with Myra and Harry in Chicago and he can’t seem to shake that he is missing something about Edwin’s death.


But, Sam would not give up and when his grandmother mentions something in passing about Phyllis things start to fit into place and with Sam’s help the real motive for murder and the killer is revealed. Edwin worked with the military to help vets in need of therapy. Just why the killer wanted him dead you have to find out for yourself. How it all comes together so brilliantly is the work and writing skill of author Judith White that keeps you in suspense until the very last chapters when she reveals the truth. Lies, deceits, deceptions and one clever killer that things he/she might get away with it. Sam Flanagan is one great private detective and everyone knows the author has more cases for this man. Throughout the novel you hear the inner most thoughts of Sam told in the first person as he takes you through the case step by step, introduces you the his grandmother who might seem like she rambling but if you listen closely her method of madness just might be totally sane.

Fran Lewis: reviewer


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